Concerned over the quality of food their children are served at school, some Hanoi parents have taken a hands-on approach.
Students have meals at school. — VNA/VNS Illustrative Photo
Parents of Nghia Tan Primary School in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District regularly visit the school kitchen in the morning to inspect school lunches.
The parents started making the visits after several food poisoning scandals at other schools were recently reported in the media.
Vu Anh Nguyet, member of the parent representative board of Nghia Tan School, said the school allows parents to supervise food safety and conduct unscheduled inspections during lunch time so they know what their children eat is safe and nutritious.
A food safety inspection at Hanoi schools in the school year 2017-18 found the food safety supervision process has many loopholes, meaning contaminated food is easily transported from outside suppliers to the school kitchen.
Many schools buy food from other suppliers and cook it themselves, while others which lack kitchens order cooked meals from other schools or services.
Last year more than 200 children and three teachers of Xuan Non Kindergarten in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District were hospitalised after eating bacteria-contaminated cakes.
The food supplier, Bao An Company, claimed they used ingredients from another company. The food's origin is still unclear.
In the latest case last month, more than 200 children in the northern province of Bac Ninh tested positive for tapeworm after eating bad meat prepared by the school kitchen.
Local authorities said food suppliers buy meat from unknown sources, making food origin inspections impossible.
Earlier this month, parents of Chu Van An Primary School in Hoang Mai District found 35kg of frozen chicken with a strange smell in the school kitchen provided by Halofoods.
More than 1,600 of Hanoi's 2,700 schools provide lunch for students.
Pham Xuan Tien, deputy director of Hanoi’s Department of Education and Training said supervision of food origin is important and schools should allow parents to conduct regular and unscheduled inspections on food origin.
“Schools must take responsibility for collaborating with parents to make information transparent. Parents should also ask schools to be allowed to supervise and discover school meal problems,” he said.
“All sides must get involved to ensure food safety and nutrition of student's meals,” he said.
Vu Thi Kim Thanh, vice principal of 20-10 Kindergarten in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District, said the school focused on making seasonal menus with tasty and nutritious food for children and closely supervising food origin and quantity with parents.
The school regularly checks food safety knowledge of kitchen staff and has signed food safety commitment with food suppliers, she said.
"Supervising food safety is a task not just for schools and parents, but also requires local authorities and local education and training departments to be responsible," Tien said.
To tackle food safety problems at schools, Hanoi established two inspection teams earlier this month to work until April 26.
Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung has asked food and drink suppliers to make food origin known to teachers, parents and students. In case of food poisoning, grassroots healthcare facilities should provide on-the-spot treatment.